Life can be wondrous. It can also be hard. Sometimes it moves forward predictably, but often it swerves in directions we never could have imagined. For some aspects of life we have control, and for many, we have little to none.
However, one aspect of our life for which we do have control is our general attitude, or outlook. We can choose to be optimistic or pessimistic, hopeful or doubtful, proactive or reactive, trusting or distrusting. The former makes us focus on improving life as we know it while reminding us of the gifts life has presented. The latter drags us down emotionally and fosters negativity in those around us.
In many circumstances, our general outlook and perception of reality are even more important to our well-being than reality itself. So managing your attitude is the key to a happier, healthier life.
Here are some tips for developing a general attitude of positivity.
1. Realize that you can control your attitude. An attitude is a decision to have a certain mindset. You can decide to handle situations in healthy or unhealthy ways. Even bad situations can be handled with a positive, healthy attitude if you choose it.
2. Know that happiness is a choice. We all know that there are times when we will feel sad, or angry, or irritated. But whether these emotions consume us is a personal choice. Do you work through the hard times and difficult emotions or do you choose to allow them to linger on and on? Doing the work that is necessary to move towards and maintain happiness is a choice worth making.
3. Tell yourself you can change. Believe that you can change your general attitude towards life. Imagine the outcome of your change. Write down the moments of change in your life that have made you the person you like being today. It could be anything – your new job, moving to a new city, finding your partner, etc. Hang this list where you’ll see it often to encourage you to stay positive and empower you to make changes when needed.
4. Change your negative thoughts. Watch carefully for thoughts that tear you down or assume negative outcomes. For instance, if you make a mistake on your first day at a new job you might think to yourself, “They are going to think I’m stupid and fire me!” However, you might instead tell yourself, “Well, out of the twenty new things I learned today I screwed up one. Which means I’m not perfect, but who is? I’ll learn from it and do even better tomorrow.”
5. Embrace life. Embrace every moment. Stop fussing over unnecessary things and trivial matters and start focusing on that which is most important to you. Life can be filled with exciting adventures, beauty, and wonder if you allow yourself to experience it.
6. Control your reactions. People and situations trigger natural emotional reactions within us. And while it is true that they are responsible for the choices and actions that made us feel a certain way, what we do with these emotions is our responsibility, not theirs. Whether something makes you feel happy, sad, angry, humorous, or lonely, find ways to channel your reactions in positive, healthy directions.
7. Surround yourself with positive people. It is nearly impossible to live a life of positivity when negative people surround you – the ones who put you down, do not encourage your happiness and those who make you feel negative about yourself. You can’t always control who is in your life, but when you can, choose wisely.
8. Be careful whose opinions you value. People give us feedback all the time. Whether they compliment how we look, criticize our parenting skills, offer congratulations, or roll their eyes at us, we get opinions thrown our way constantly. Feedback can be very valuable, but you also have to be very careful how you choose to let it affect you. If you find yourself significantly affected by someone’s opinion, ask yourself why that person’s opinion matters so much to you? Is the opinion coming from someone you value and has your best interests at heart? Are they trying to encourage you or tear you down?
9. Inundate yourself with positive thoughts. Every morning listen to, read, or write something positive. Create a log of positive interactions you have had and review them regularly. Write down compliments you have received, and those you have made to others. Listen to music with positive messages or that just makes you feel good! Be mindful of the messages you feed yourself.
10. Use positive words. There is power in the words and phrases we use. They are a reflection of our beliefs, and in turn, reinforce those beliefs. Thus, if you often say things like “I can’t” or “This won’t work,” you are not only communicating your negative outlook to others but also reinforcing it to yourself. Choose your words carefully because doing so can quite literally make changes in the way you think and feel over the long haul.
11. Change your environment. When you are stressed out and feel negative about life, a change in your environment can shift your perspective to a positive one. Go somewhere, anywhere, another room, to a coffee shop, to a park, to a friends home, or simply take a stroll around the block. This simple activity can have a big effect on your attitude at the moment.
12. Look at both the positives and negatives of a situation. Many situations or experiences have pluses and minuses, positives and negatives. When you are faced with a challenge, try to list three positive and three negative aspects about it. The same goes for what appear to be positive situations. Consider if there are any downsides to it. Trying to maintain a balanced view can help you to make the best decisions for yourself.
13. Focus on what you have. It is so easy to get caught up in thinking about all the things we don’t have. This can make us feel sad, angry, neglected, or that life is treating us unfairly. And yet dwelling on the fact that we don’t have what we want only eats up energy and time that could be used for more positive, productive purposes. Focus on what you do have and find ways to capitalize on it! Use your talents and available resources to their fullest and see where that takes you.
14. Channel your stress. Stress can lead to maladaptive behaviors or proactive actions, depending on which we choose. For example, when some people are under stress they work out their nervous energy by pacing back and forth. Or, they could choose to work out that energy with a jog or workout. Other people take their work stress out on their family when they get home at night, which creates even more stress. Or, they could choose to find other avenues to verbalize their frustrations through counseling or other means. The point is that choosing how you channel your stress reactions is a great way to reduce your overall life stress.
15. Stay calm. It can be challenging but choosing to remain calm under unfavorable circumstances can be very beneficial. Losing your cool with someone usually just escalates the situation and the negativity. By remaining calm, you will be in a much better state of mind to make positive, proactive choices.
16. Share your positivity. Be intentional about spreading your positive attitude towards life. Smile. Encourage others. Offer to help. Ask about their family or health. Comment on what you are thankful for in your life. Find ways to make a positive impact on others.
17. Diversify your support group. When you always talk to like-minded people, you’ll hear the same perspective again and again, which could be a positive or a negative depending on the situation. To develop a broader perspective, try talking to different people to gather many viewpoints about the situation. Try talking to someone with a different personality, a different age, educational background, etc. Having a broader perspective on life can foster positivity.
18. Stay away from complainers and gossipers. Constant complainers and gossipers rarely see any good in any situation. They focus on what’s wrong and hardly ever try to focus on a positive solution. The more time you spend with them, the more likely you are to join in.
19. Get an ample amount of rest and eat well. When you lack proper rest, you cannot think clearly, and your judgment & decision-making abilities diminish. You tend to remember fewer positive things and focus more on the negatives. Look at your eating and sleeping habits if you think you are slipping into negativity.
20. Love and accept yourself. You are a real, valid, talented, flawed, thinking human being full of feelings. Accept and love your whole imperfect being. Know that you have strengths to draw on and imperfections to work on, just like the rest of us. As you internalize this truth, you might just find yourself feeling more positive about life in general.